Designing a Digital Storefront for your Local Carwash


Today we’re taking some time with Caleb Eckman, Web Developer and Designer here at Tommy Car Wash Systems, and exploring car wash websites and the digital storefronts that play such a significant role in modern car wash customer service and advertising.


Q: Caleb, tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve been at Tommy Car Wash Systems for over a year now. Before that I spent four years at Michigan State University working towards my Computer Science degree. While there, I specialized in database systems, web technologies, and web app development.


My role at Tommy Car Wash Systems is the design and development of our corporate websites. This includes everything from designing new pages or content to managing our existing online infrastructure. There are always new things being built and it’s my job to make sure that those things get showcased online.


Q: We all know the internet is here to stay, and having your hours and menu available online is important. But is that really all the value a well-designed website holds for a local carwash?


The significance of a well-designed online presence can’t be overstated in today’s digital world. A website has enormous influence over a company’s brand identity, public relations and customer experience. In fact, modern consumers now expect that a business’s online presence is well-polished and intuitive.


But beyond the basic website, there are many services that can be offered digitally that improve the experience of your customers. These could include things like club programs, additional payment options, location finding or mobile apps. Another huge digital asset is, if done correctly, more streamlined and varied avenues of communication with your customer base. Give customers options on how they communicate with you, along with making it simple and easy to do so.


Q: What are some guiding design principles or strategies you would suggest for a wash operators looking to design their own websites or have them built?


I would say the biggest design principle to remember is simplicity and ease-of-use. You could spend hundreds of hours working on the best-looking, most eye-catching website, but if the content isn’t good or is hard to find, your customers will leave frustrated. It doesn’t matter what your website looks like if your customers can’t navigate your site or easily find the information they need.


So design your website around your content, don’t fit the content into your design. Put the most important information in prominent, recognizable locations (location, hours, pricing etc). Minimize the number of clicks or taps it takes to access this information so that visitors don’t have to heavily commit. Customers will stay and browse, but only if the initial experience is good.


Q: Once a website is finished and available online, what should a wash operator focus on next?


Getting a website established is only the first step in providing a positive digital experience. While it’s great to have new visitors to your site, it’s optimal to give them reasons to come back. This can take many forms, but it mostly comes down to a consistent form of new content. This can take the form of social media posts, a blog, or a news section which highlights upcoming events. Another big feature that will be constantly in use is your contact page. Ensure that all communication with your customers is polite, consistent, and effective. A positive brand voice can vastly improve your reputation as a business.


Q: What are some of the worst or most common website mistakes you’ve seen in the wild?


One of the biggest issues I see in a majority of websites is a lack of mobile responsiveness. With more than half of web interactions happening on mobile devices, it’s extremely important to design a site that will look and work well across all platforms. It’s definitely not a good web experience if your visitors have to pinch and zoom to read text or interact with buttons. This can be especially bad when the main site navigation is affected, as this makes the website practically unusable.


Another thing I often see is when small resolution images are used as hero or background images. Always make sure that the images you use are large enough for the medium they’re being viewed on. For desktop, that’s usually around 2000 pixels in width for a full screen image, but with some retina displays you may need even more resolution. Both of these issues are easily remedied and will greatly improve a customer’s experience on your site.


Tommy Car Wash Systems


Conversations: Brand Voices in Car Wash Digital Marketing


If advertising is a shout that goes out to customers, attracting and informing them, social media marketing is more of a conversation, a conversation held in a very public forum. In this new arena your brand’s voice and your approach has tremendous consequences.


To tell us more we’ve invited digital marketing expert Jami Winstrom to answer a few questions. Jami is a Digital Marketer at Navigate (Holland, Michigan) and manages a variety of digital advertising and social media campaigns, including those of our sister company, Tommy’s Express Car Wash.


Q: Welcome Jami! First, tell us a bit about yourself.


I have extensive knowledge and experience in the digital landscape, working within the B2B and B2C environments. As a digital marketing professional, my primary focus is on inbound strategy and paid search. I am also a ever-learning expert in using social media as a critical piece of the Tommy’s Express Marketing Strategy.


I have a BA in English from GVSU and am a proud member of Sigma Tau Delta. I earned my MS in Digital Marketing from Eastern Tennessee State University, where I learned from and collaborated with leading brand managers, marketers, and strategists from companies, including Cardinal Path, Adobe, Nilsen, Supercell (Clash of Clans), and more. I am Hubspot certified in Inbound Marketing, and I am also a Google Ads Certified professional, specializing in video campaigns.


Q: It’s clear that marketing has changed over the past generation, with Social Media and Internet Marketing becoming dominant concerns. What are some ways this change affects the daily or monthly operation of car washes in the industry?


This is a great question, and I’m going to answer it from a methodology approach. With the exponential growth in technology, and as we experience changes of process and rate of consumption of brand messaging, marketers have an opportunity for tremendous impact through a multitude of medias and channels. We can analyze data with such precision and segment our markets better than ever before, and moreover, we no longer have to take an interruptive approach to share our messages with our consumers. We can meet people where they are and invite them into our brand messaging.


With that said, traditional marketing efforts are absolutely not obsolete, particularly as we are sharing messaging across several generations. We are in an era where we need to make constant technological considerations that meet the needs of multiple generations. A brand like Tommy’s Express is not simply focused on one age demographic. Instead, we are reaching far across a chasm of digital immigrants and digital natives alike. We need to be mindful of the delivery and mode of our messaging.


With that said, whether we are speaking to the Baby Boomers or the Gen Zers, we need to understand that no matter how people communicate or how much technology advances and changes, what attracts a person to a product or a service is authenticity, quality, and honesty. This is the message is our brand voice, and that will never change, no matter how adaptive we become with our delivery.


Q: How should a car wash owner or team member develop or define their ‘voice’, and how does it impact the overall marketing strategy?


The voice of the Tommy’s Express brand in the digital space is fun with a little bit of spunk and is authentically empathetic. We strive to be good social listeners and hope that we allow our customer’s voice to speak into our brand. While traditional media often focuses on a message that merely travels from the sender to the recipient, social media offers the opportunity to travel in both directions–from the sender and to the recipient and vice versa.


While traditional media is homogeneous, social media is quite personalized. Content and products can be more diverse and tailored to each individual rather than building a product range with the intent at gaining one conversion out of a larger unsegmented group. With that said, we have the opportunity to meet our customer where they are, using an informal and very personal voice. While we are technically speaking to the masses, we want to feel like we are speaking directly to one individual.


Q: Intersections between customer service and digital marketing can be tricky to manage. What are some best practices wash operators should keep in mind?


Tricky is absolutely right. There are days when customer service is fun, people are happy, conversations are great, and everything is sunshine and puppies. But let’s be honest, some days customer services is really difficult. An experience is only as good as the reaction. Some days it’s our own reaction. We’ve all had days where we have hard things going on at home, or we just simply got out of bed wrong. Those are the days where it’s just hard to put on our “Be Nice” hat. We’re told “the customer is always right.” But we know the truth, and sometimes, they’re just not.


I mean, there are hundreds of memes out there dedicated to customer service faux pas. All jokes aside and digital or not, customer service is one of the most important, if not the most important pieces to a good brand strategy and brand reputation management. The customer is right, or somehow, it is our job to make it right. The difference is that 20 years ago, maybe five people would know if something went wrong or right. Today, 5000 people may know instantly. If there is an issue, the best thing to do is to get people off social channels as quickly as possible and resolve the issue in person, through a phone call, or though an email. Always remember how we attract and retain our customers: authenticity, quality, and honesty.


No matter what, we always want to be responsive, and we want to listen. As owners, managers, and wash operators, we may think we know what’s going on in our wash, but our customers know more. As for those great days, we want to keep those conversations going, engaging them, and ultimately, we want to invite them to be a part of our brand story.


Q: What are some of the biggest or most common digital marketing missteps or errors you’ve noticed?


One of the most common missteps that are made on social channels are going dark and being unresponsive to questions, concerns, or issues. We are no longer speaking to just one person, rather on our social channels we are speaking to potentially thousands at once. We can’t ignore something, hoping that it will just go away. Believe me when I say, if something is said in the digital space, it can never be taken back or put to rest. It will always be there. Maybe it won’t have as much impact three months down the road, but it will still be there.


Q: Anything else?


Everywhere we look, we are being sold to–were a culture of advertisement. And each day we digest countless billboards, print ads, radio spots, commercials, emails, banner ads, videos, and so on. Traditionally advertisement has been thought of a means to tell our customers what they should be doing, what they need, and how they can get more.


What if–instead of this interruptive approach–we could allow our consumers to be a part of a story, the brand story? That’s exactly what we hope to do with Tommy’s Express in our digital space. We want our customers to connect with us at a deeper level. In turn, our customers are empowered to use their own voices, surpassing the constrains of time, place, and space, and they become the most valuable advocates for our brand.


Tommy Car Wash Systems


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Tommy Car Wash Systems


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